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A look ahead to Arsenal

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arsenal preview
arsenal preview

As if trying to overcome the weight of history was not difficult enough, the side will line-up at The Emirates without Mario Balotelli and more importantly, David Silva, this evening.

It is now some thirty-six years and twenty-seven trips to Highbury/The Emirates since the last victory was achieved; truly a barren run if there ever was one and last years point in a turgid affair at least stemmed a succession of defeats.

With the absences of Balotelli and Silva, you'd expect Roberto Mancini to opt for James Milner and Adam Johnson augmenting the midfield trio of Nigel de Jong, Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry with Carlos Tevez as the front man. Defensively, Mancini will have a decision to make as to whether to recall Kolo Toure (fresh from a scrape with Emmanuel Adebayor) in place of Joleon Lescott, who has impressed of late, whilst the full-back pairing could once again change.

City's away record this season has been very impressive, achieving both wins and goals on the road. Arsenal, whilst getting on the scoresheet themselves, have not been solid at the back, with the defensive and goalkeeping moves Arsene Wenger has made not entirely convincing. Arsenal has allowed leads to slip on a number of occasions this season and have not thrown off the fragile tag quite yet.

That said, and much to the chargrin of most fans (and definitely the pundits) I'd expect Mancini to set up more cautiously than of late; happy with a point but hopeful of snatching the goal that could take all three points.

Arsenal of course ran out 3-0 winners earlier in the season, but Dedryck Boyata's early dismissal had a huge bearing on the outcome of the game and has little bearing on how tonight's game will play out.

With United's result last night, it is a game both sides would love to win, although to suggest it has any bearing on the title race or displays title credentials is ridiculous at this stage of the season.

A game with plenty of goals is by no means out of the question, but I have to think it would take an early goal from either side for that happen. Far more likely though is a tense affair, with both midfields comfortable in possession and likely to restrict opportunities for the opposition resulting in an intriguing rather than entertaining evening.